Mindsets or implicit theories are terms which refer to various subconscious beliefs about the malleability of human attributes (e.g., intelligence and emotion). Huang and colleagues recently conducted a pilot experiment to examine the effect of a growth mindset intervention on students’ implicit theory of intelligence, intrinsic motivation, and academic achievement. The authors extended the intervention to establish a belief about the malleability of emotion so that students can regulate their emotion and thereby enhance their sense of self-determination, which is likely to reinforce their intrinsic motivation for learning.
Students of 11 primary and middle schools across 48 classes from 2 cities in Guangdong Province, China, were recruited to sign up to the program. Participating students were randomly assigned either to the intervention group or the placebo-control group. The final sample consisted of 194 students (mean age = 11.3 years) in the intervention group and 213 students (mean age = 11.5 years) in the control group. A 90-minute workshop was conducted with both groups separately with different content. While the structure and function of the brain were introduced in the workshops of both groups, only the following contents were introduced in the intervention group:
- Illustration of the malleability of the human brain to instill a belief that students could improve their intelligence
- Introduction to a growth mindset and a fixed mindset using cartoon characters, and discussion of their thoughts and behaviours
- Applying growth theory to emotion
In contrast, teachers in the control group only taught about the brain functions, its different regions and mnemonic strategies. After controlling for pre-tests scores, gender, and age, the results indicated:
- The intervention significantly improved students’ achievement in math (ES = +0.08) but not in English (ES = +0.05) nor Chinese (ES = +0.04).
- The intervention enhanced both students’ implicit theory of intelligence (ES = +0.37) and intrinsic motivation (ES = +0.16).
- As a positive effect was found in math scores, the study further explored for an underlying mechanism. Result of mediation analysis found that a significant indirect intervention effect was initiated by their intrinsic motivation for good math results but not by their implicit theory of intelligence. Put differently, the intervention enhanced their intrinsic motivation and, in turn, that higher implicit motivation related to higher math scores.
Though the intervention period was very brief and the effect on math scores was small, the study provided preliminary empirical evidence to support the implementation of growth mindset related interventions for Chinese students.
Source: Huang, Z., Wei, X., Lu, R., & Shi, J. (2022). Whether and how can a growth mindset intervention help students in a non-western culture? Evidence from a field experiment in China. Educational Psychology, 42(7), 913–929. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2022.2085669